Apr 13, 2014

Pomp It Up: Le Fougerus


Palm Sunday, and we look down from our perch on the Noble Floor and see a procession going down our street to one of the several local 800-year old churches.

The branches they are holding, along with the fact that Gigi tells me that she learned in religion class that today marks the day Jesus was crucified, makes me rethink the meaning of Palm Sunday, which I had always assumed was named after palm leaves. Perhaps instead it has to with the stigmata and the palms of his hands? But no, I look into it and it actually does refer to palm leaves -- the ones laid down as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, in what seems like quite a festive parade for somebody about to be gruesomely executed. So it's before the Last Supper, and therefore clearly not the day he was crucified.

Considering we all know what's coming next in the story, I find the gatherings outside our door kind of festive. Well, picturesque, in any event.


I rather like this one, which shows Hotel de Ville in the background. I purposely haven't cropped the guy out of it on the right, because the fact that he's got the mustache and the beret really drive home the fact that this photo is taken in France.

At Notre Dame itself -- just a stone's throw away -- they really pump up the pomp. My father takes these very colorful Palm Sunday photos:
Actually, Jesus was crucified three days before Easter Sunday (on Good Friday, which somehow is supposed to be three days before Sunday, but that's a whole other religious debate). Apparently, in northern climes, they often give out different kinds of branches, but they seem to have no problem finding palm leaves in Paris. And, also apparent, while Gigi does well in most subjects, religion class is never going to be her specialty. Then again, Pippa comes home from her little Catholic school saying: "In religion class, the priest told us he gave up chocolate for Lent. Some other kids are giving up candy. I'm going to give up school."
THE CHEESE: Le Fougerus
Le Fougerus is a variant of the French word "fougère", meaning "fern". And it's easy to see why. This raw cow's milk cheese is closely related to Coulommiers, a local Ile-de-France (Paris regional) cheese. It's also related to a Brie. So given that pedigree, it seems like it should be extra buttery and creamy.
So what's surprising is that we are all a little disappointed in it (and by "all", I mean the almost 20 kids and adults over for a cheese tasting party). Even when it warms up, it remains a little rubbery and sticky, and it really lacks that unctuous quality we were all hoping to feel.
What is also surprising is that it's a relatively new cheese -- first appearing in the early 1900s. Ah those crazy Belle Epoquers. The fern was mostly added as a decoration, and continues to be the defining characteristic of the cheese. The taste is simple -- a mild cow -- but while it's pleasant, I can't say that any of us are tasting any herbiness caused by the fern leaf.
Le Fougerus appears each year in the spring and disappears in the fall.
Le Fougerus has (and means) a fern leaf, not a palm leaf, but it'll do. It even appears around the time of Palm Sunday. And Fougerus even sounds like it would be the Latin version of fougère, though I cannot find any evidence that this is actually true. While we're at it, though, I'd love to meet the cheese wheel that's big enough for a five foot palm leaf.


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